How I Read

7/365: Currently Reading

This post is a little different to my normal posts, but thought that I would share a very relevant on-going theme in my life and how I’m going about it: reading and writing. The motivation behind this was spurred by the shutting down of my beloved Google Reader which has served me faithfully for the last few years as my main portal of consuming information. I agonized over what could take its place and after reading this post on on How to Read on Farnam Street Blog (arguably my favourite go-to website), decided to improve how I am consuming and sharing my information and to use some tools more intentionally than I have in the past.

Traditionally, I’ve used my Google reader as my primary Inspectional Reading method, and as a way to keep up with news and thought leaders in specific industries. I still read on average a book per week (yes, sometimes I do slip up!) but haven’t been very good at going a step further in Syntopical Reading. Also, in either case, I haven’t been the best at keeping track of articles that I really enjoy, or dug deeper into them for more Analytical Reading. I’ve used half-heartedly to save these articles I like, but still – not good enough. Hence, in efforts to be better at tracking and sharing, I’ve divided my information consumption into the following three categories based on the How to Read post:

1) Inspectional Reading 

– I’ve migrated over to Feedly in replacement of my Google Reader and although am still getting used to the interface, I do like the design, and the process of migrating over has forced me to cut down about 20% of my RSS feeds so I can derive more focused content. I still have WAY too much feeds for my liking, so I need to cut down at least another 30% more.

– My twitter feed also serves as a way for me to keep up with news that I skim through on a frequent basis.

2) Analytical Reading

– I’m going to start using Pocket a lot more to filter through from my skimming of my Feedly and Twitter feeds to articles that really catch my eye. (It helps that I am a speed reader so can skim very quickly through large quantities of information) helps me capture key ideas that I can revisit and captures quotes that I really like for articles online.

Tumblr will do the same for for me as findings does, but for books that I read. I just to make sure that Readmill is pulling information consistently from my Kindle highlights.

– In terms of ‘saving’ articles that I like, I’m testing out Potluck, which so far is underwhelming, but what I like about it is that I can see what other friends are reading as well. I might return to if the platform doesn’t pick up, as I like delicious’ hashtag feature (makes sorting and searching so much easier)

3) Syntopical Reading

– I find that this type of reading is best done when I force myself to pen down my thoughts and hence, will be blogging more about my reading and cross referencing it with articles that I read. I’ve debated migrating over to Medium but haven’t reached that tipping point yet.

– I’m cutting back on my One Book per Week and instead, making sure that I read more deliberately and aim for a book per 2 – 3 weeks and intentionally what I’m reading on this website. I find that I’ve read so many books, but have missed out on the value that each of them provide as after a while, they all blur together. I’m making it a habit to reflect after each book and write down my thoughts on the book while it’s still fresh.

P/s: I’ve updated my What I’m Reading list, and am open to suggestions on how I am best tracking/sharing books that I want to read. 

Storytelling & Four Shifting Forces

Back in New York, I attended one of the best Creative Mornings sessions, a captivating talk delivered by Jonathan Harris on the storytelling. I’ve blogged before on deconstructing the power of storytelling, and if you’re looking to understand more about this, Jonathan Harris’ projects are absolutely remarkable. They have ranged from documenting an Eskimo whale hunt to capturing human emotion on the interwebs to interviewing Tibetans on happiness. Here’s his Creative Morning talk and my visual notes from that day:


















So my notes couldn’t quite capture the tail bit of his talk (I basically ran out of space!), but essentially, he highlights key trends that he is observing in our evolving world of tech and storytelling:

1) Rise of Social Engineers: Never before has there been such a small subsection of society ( aka. software developers in tech startups who are having a big effect of millions of human through design of software.

2) Urges & Outcomes: All tech extends some preexisting urge. What is the urge within humans that needs to be enhanced?

3) The Ethics of Code: How can we regulate software? Could there be a self-directed ethnics from the creators of software? This ties in back to point 1 on the responsibilities of a social engineer, given their wide-spread influence.

4) Healers & Dealers: Startups are basically falling into two buckets: healers and dealers. Healers: marketplace companies that connect people. e.g. kickstarter. Dealers: Attention economies that take up your finite resource aka. time by convincing people to spend time on their product/sites. e.g. facebook.


All in all, I was very struck after the end of his talk with this question(s): what kind of presence do you want to have in this world? Am I a healer or a dealer? As our world’s language continues to trend towards a technology-based one, how do we position ourselves to become creators once more, instead of just curators of information?

For now, I suppose I am satisfied with being a Healer in the investment world. The bigger picture of all of this, is wondering, as an investor, what trends in society do I want to help accelerate…

One Book Per Week: Tumblring My Findings

Since coming to New York, I’ve developed a healthy habit of reading on the subway going to and fro from meetings. My Kindle has made it a lot easier to read in a packed subway car and my expanded networks have provided me a wealth of books to add to my reading list. After a conversation with a good friend who inspired a goal setting quest, I decided to embark on a One Book Per Week Project – where I would read a book a week as a personal self-development goal. It has been two months in, and I am pleased to share that reading is firmly back in life and can officially say that I have read all the books on my shelf. I’ve added some of the books that I read and loved to my Book List but more than that, I would love for my readings and discoveries to be shared in a more public way. Hence, going forward, I will be doing this in two ways:

1) Tumblr

I started a tumblr where I would post quotes and highlights from books that I am currently reading. Majority of my readings are now done on my Kindle and thanks to this awesome tool called:, all the highlights from my Kindle readings will be shared to my tumblr. Quotes Galore aka. my personal quote bank and tracking of books that I am currently reading. Below is a snapshot of I definitely recommend that you check it out!

2) Moleskin Book Visualization 

One of the skills that I have been working on is the Art of Visual Thinking. I am naturally a visual leaner, but the art of translating thought and complex ideas into pictures is a completely different thing. Hence, to help me along with this learning process, I decided to combine it with my One Book Per Week Project. I bought some brand new moleskins and will be summarizing up the books I am reading into one page in my moleskin. This not only enables pushes my ability to retain information, but also allows me to piece together the book in my own way.

Unleashing Data for Development

*This post was orig­i­nally pub­lished on on Jul 18, 2011

There are three things about development data that you need to know: 1) It is beautiful; 2) There is a hidden story within each combination; and 3) It needs to be set free.

Last year, the World Bank released it’s prized possession of data – one that tells the stories of economic, socio and political realities around the world. This is a push to “democratize development data” and embrace its open information policy. It’s absolutely incredible what has been done with the data and I wanted to highlight some of the initiatives that have been born out of this:


This is the main Knowledge Bank where you can information from poverty rates to the average life expectancy of a country. Data is sorted by topic, countries, indicators, sectors and the World Bank even made a neat feature of key development indicators around the world. It covers over 200 counties and in some cases, dates back as far as 50 years.

The data is updated regularly and as you can see from the screenshot below, you can even find information on the newest country in the world – South Sudan! The site includes the Bank’s widely-used and extremely useful datasets: the 2010 World Development Indicators (WDI), Africa Development Indicators (ADI), Global Economic Monitor (GEM) and Global Development Finance.

2) Apps for Development

With the launch of the the above resource, the World Bank organized an Apps for Development Competition – bringing together the best ideas from developers and data to create useful software applications that is related to the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). The competition was a tremendous success and the Bank received apps from 36 countries: 30 of the 107 final submissions from Africa. You can check out the winners from this competition here.

A side spinoff from this competition was also an International Day Hackathon on Dec 4th last year where developers write applications using open data to support and encourage the adoption of open data policies by the world’s governments. My favorite application is the San Francisco Crimespotting – an interactive map of crimes in San Francisco and a tool for understanding crime in cities. Helping keep people safe with open data. Amazing!

3) Mapping for Results

This Platform provides detailed information about the World Bank’s work in poverty alleviation and development around the world. It provides access to interactive maps that highlights locations of the bank’s projects around the world and involved releasing data provided by governments and other entities.

4) Data on the Go!

The World Bank is bringing accessibility of data to a whole new level by providing information on an iPhone app. They have six apps ( 4 published and 2 in the pipelines) that are being developed and the interface and usability for the data is just incredible. My personal favorite is the classic Datafinder – an app that lets you access 50 years of WB data on global economic indicators that can easily be shared in presentations, research and projects. Two more apps are being released in August 2011 – The World Bank at a Glance and the World Bank’s Finances.

Data is truly beautiful and with the world’s development data at your fingertips, we can use, analyze and even criticize.. but the only thing we shouldn’t do is ignore it. The video below is an example at how magical data can be. 4 minutes – 200 countries, 200 years by world renown economist – Hans Rosling.